With the madness that occurred in the Western Semifinals, many were up in arms about the best series in the playoffs fouled up by a misguided rule and the overly strict implementation of it. The NBA was right in suspending Stoudemire and Diaw, but only because they had a specifically stated rule with clear-cut language. However, the NBA failed miserably in not having revisited this rule previously to at least have some discretion included. But, this issue has been hammered home so many times that it's tired, so we'll drop it for now.
The issue that is still at hand — why everyone is disinterested in the NBA right now — remains unsolved. I had the benefit of being out of the country when all of the Suns/Spurs bru-ha-ha went down, thus sparing me from all the rhetoric on both sides of the argument. So, coming into the situation, I have few biases spread by the national media. As an NBA fan, I am still interested in the playoffs, and will watch every game. But I am not excited. And, as I said before, I am not alone.
Before I start, I would like to make a few quick distinctions.
Here's are the reasons I have nailed down as the reasons everyone is so disenfranchised:
1. Forgone conclusion
In these conference finals, most sports fans and NBA fans have made the forgone conclusion that the Spurs will win the West and the Pistons will win the East.
Predictability breeds disinterest, and until this thing has one of the underdogs take the lead in the series or push it to a seventh game, many sports fans will turn their attention elsewhere.
2. Nash love
America loves Steve Nash, a white superstar and a back-to-back-MVP. Without Nash in it, many sports fans and NBA fans became disinterested when the man they secretly (or openly) love is dispatched after having such an exciting, dominating season.
3. Suns are exciting, others aren't
With an up-tempo style that produces highlight after highlight when it is running on all cylinders, people love to watch Phoenix play. Every team left plays a much more grueling (or in Cleveland's case gruesome) style of ball.
4. No superstars
LeBron James is the only remaining sexy star left in the playoffs. Tim Duncan is a star, but doesn't command as much attention because of his lack of flash and for another reason that I'll get to in a bit. Utah's tandem of Boozer and Deron Williams may make waves in a few years, but aren't there yet. Detroit is a team, but no real individual stars really still exist.
5. It's tainted
Many sports fans are still bitter that the series that was most compelling to them — San Antonio vs. Phoenix — had an air of taint to it. When Robert Horry decked Nash and Stoudemire and Diaw flew off the bench, many saw this as an instinctual reaction, and with a lack of understanding or respect for the rules in place, many sports fans will scoff at the result of that series as another rigged NBA contest. Never mind the fact that if the NBA were going to rig it anyone's way, it would be the Suns, but that's a topic for another day.
6. These aren't the matchups everyone has been waiting to see.
All season, NBA watchers across the nation have been waiting to see Mavs vs. Spurs or Mavs vs. Suns. In the East, the nation would have much preferred a Bulls vs. Cavaliers Conference Finals. The Mavs didn't do their part, and the Pistons are way better than the Bulls, so nobody should really be surprised anyway.
7. Same old thing
It happens to every great team. People get tired of seeing the same successful teams over and over. Nowadays, the Spurs are always either winning it, or in the hunt. The Pistons are the same to a lesser degree.
(Now here's the real reason, but it's the one nobody realizes or recognizes)
8. Unattractive market
Tony Parker said it best:
"If our team was in New York, there would be a different perception of our team," Parker said. "They'd be talking crazy about Manu and Timmy and stuff like that. But we're in San Antonio. Don't get me wrong; I love San Antonio. But I'm just saying that different markets, I guess . . . if our team was in New York, it would be huge."
This describes the subconscious attitude of many NBA fans and sports fans and I couldn't have said it better myself. It isn't just the Spurs right now, and right now, there are four of the least sexy markets in all of basketball (save Milwaukee and Minnesota) in the mix. Detroit has a metroplex of 5.4 million, Cleveland's has 2.2 million, San Antonio's has 1.9 million and Salt Lake City has a mere 1 million. As far as NBA markets go, Detroit is really the only one that is of any real size. Plus, who the hell ever wants to go to Detroit. It's bleak. Cleveland is a beleaguered sports town that hasn't ever really been successful and has little that is atttractive to the rest of the country besides LeBron. San Antonio is in the middle of Texas, and really has little else to offer of national interest beyond the Spurs and the Alamo. Utah...well, it's Utah.
My point is that there isn't anything to compel national sports fans to these unattractive markets. There is something interesting about seeing things happen in New York, Los Angeles...hell, even a place like Denver or Phoenix.
My question to my fair reader(s) is:
Why is America disinterested in the NBA?